Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Back to the Plantation

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Back to the Plantation

Article excerpt


COME winter, the fashion quotient at Gatwick's British Airways businessclass lounge traditionally plummets as the Caribbean moves into peak season.

Coiffeured blondes with orange tans make an appearance, while shoulder pads rudely push aside fellow travellers in the great stampede to board flight BA2155 to Barbados.

Not any longer. The Caribbean, for so long, and to so many, the anathema of all things stylish (pink resorts, Michael Winner, honeymooners) is seeing off that upstart Mauritius (the new Antigua, according to the Surrey contingent) with a crop of chic hotel and villa openings which have nothing to do with Home Counties glitz.

Barbados is the epicentre - the lounge-suit set is hearing the death knell, despite Concorde planning to resume direct flights on 1 December and Daphne's, the London It girl restaurant, opening a Bajan outpost.

In the changing climate, Sandy Lane's [pound]285 million renovation is failing to make quite the same headlines as Villa Nova, a 28-room country house hotel entering its first winter season.

No luminous cocktails here. Like Round Hill, Jamaica's epic grand dame so beloved of Ralph Lauren, Villa Nova is for sipping vodka martinis in a panelled bar to the sound of ceiling fans. The style is less gilt than colonial, with sepia photographs, Nina Campbell Toile de Jouy bedrooms, mahogany planters' chairs and antique mercury-stained mirrors.

That such a glamorous hotel should exist at one remove from Barbados' showy Platinum Coast would once have been greeted with indignation had Villa Nova not been so pretty, so chic, so, well, un-Caribbean. Surrey's most recalcitrant would never deem it credible were it not for another new opening, Fustic House, also set back from Barbados' moneyed West Coast.

Like Villa Nova, this is an old sugar plantation mansion with rolling lawns, louvred storm shutters and gardens where flamboyants grow without being clipped into cookie-cutter line. You rent the whole house (Tatler holed up here for its 2002 travel supplement). It was a telling moment: before Fustic, where in the Caribbean would that sort of class ever have existed? …

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